New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto of a bill requiring lawmakers to consider the racial impact of proposed criminal justice measures, saying he also wants them to consider whether such bills would deter crime in minority communities, the Wall Street Journal reports. If lawmakers accept the governor’s recommendations, New Jersey would become the fourth state to require a racial impact statement for criminal justice bills, and the first to require an impact statement on public safety. “I fully support any measure that will combat those disproportionate effects [on minority populations], seeking to ensure that New Jersey laws apply equally to all citizens,” Christie said.
The former U.S. attorney added an unexpected request for “a complete analysis to assess the broader public safety impact on the affected racial and ethnic communities and the impact of the measures on the victims and potential victims in those communities.” The novel demand marked a twist in the effort to pass the bill. It is not clear how lawmakers would determine a bill’s effect on public safety. Experts, advocates and lawmakers often differ strongly on whether a particular punishment or sentence would deter wrongdoing. African Americans in New Jersey are incarcerated at 12 times the rate of whites, making the state’s racial disparity the widest in the country, says the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates reducing the prison population.